Making Some Faux Needlepoint Art (Cute Gift Idea)

Last week my brother and his wife Ali came to visit us (well, mainly Clara, haha). They live up in NYC where John & I met and fell in love, so it’s always a treat to have them in our neck of the woods and it was actually their first time seeing our new house. Since it was almost exactly their one year wedding anniversary I thought I should DIY something sweet, and since I was an accidental kleptomaniac at their wedding (where John’s long arm snapped the pic below), I knew at least one material that I’d be using: a pilfered napkin.

Wait, let me explain. I had a three month old daughter who pretty much wanted to nurse the entire time. And somehow amid feedings and meeting & greetings a napkin from the table migrated into my purse/diaper bag. It probably got caught up in a blanket or was somehow mistaken for a bib. Total mystery. But the end result is that I accidentally took a cloth napkin from my brother’s wedding reception. And I’m the weirdo who actually called the venue to tell them what happened and offered to mail it back to them, to which the sweet man laughed and told me to that shipping it would be far more than it’s worth and to “consider it a gift.” So I did. And it sat in our full-of-junk-that-we-need-to-do-something-about playroom until Dan and Ali’s impending visit. At which point I said “ooh, I’ll use the stolen wedding napkin to make them an anniversary gift!”

John and I brainstormed all sorts of options for using it (making a fabric mat to display a framed photo from their wedding, dying it and cutting it down to make little fabric coasters, formally monogramming it and starching it to the bottom of a serving tray, etc). But for some reason the idea of needlepoint kept popping into my head. I knew I didn’t trust myself to actually needlepoint it (maybe someday, but with their visit fast approaching and lots of desk/office projects going on, I decided I’d rather “cheat”). And I actually liked the slightly off-kilter idea of hand-drawing a needlepoint inspired design right onto the napkin and then framing that. So first I trolled Pinterest and Google for needlepoint inspiration (most of which was far too advanced for a fake-needlepoint project like mine) and sketched out a few possibilities on graph paper.

Update: I just learned that needlepoint is the wrong word and I actually mean “cross-stitch” – so pretend I’m saying cross-stitch everywhere that I use the word needlpoint below.

John and I decided that this little drawing on the right was our favorite.

I worried how it would transfer onto the napkin (would it bleed? would it run? would it just look terrible and drawn on?), but luckily the Ikea frame that I had on hand (thanks to this Ikea run where we stockpiled a few for random projects like this) had a 5 x 7 ” opening, which meant that I could cut my stolen napkin into fourths so I’d have the option for three do-overs. There was definitely comfort in the fact that the first, second, and third attempt could fail and I’d still have one more shot. I figured the best method of transfer would just be to lay the cloth napkin over the card stock sketch and see if the design was visible (aka: traceable) through the fabric. And it was. Booyah.

Incidentally, if it wasn’t sheer enough I planned to tape the napkin and paper up to a window so the sun would shine through and make it easier to see, but I was glad to skip that step.

Then I just used a fine pointed marker to trace my little faux-needlepoint Xs all around the heart and the arrow and just freehanded the little dashed letters from the original design. Since I’m a detailed-oriented gal, I’ll take a moment to mention that the specific fine pointed marker that I used was a LePen (purchased on sale at Michael’s a few months back in teal because I loved it and couldn’t resist). Did the marker bleed? Yes. Was it slight? Yes. Did I like it? Surprisingly, yes. But it took me a second to realize that.

Since I had four shots at this (thanks to cutting my napkin into fourths), I tried my Le Pen first. And I wasn’t sure I liked how not-super-crisp the slight bleed made things. So then I tried tracing the same design onto a second fourth of the napkin with a ballpoint pen (which didn’t bleed at all). I did it in blue, and black, and even used a red Pilot rolling-ball pen too, just to exhaust a bunch of options.

I learned that I actually didn’t like the sharp lines as much as the softer and more charming slightly blurred lines from the Le Pen. For some reason it just looked more homemade and sweet and sort of timeworn and imperfect – as opposed to sharp and doodled with a pen. Does that make sense?

So I popped my favorite first attempt into my already-on-hand Ikea frame.

Here it is hanging on our frame wall so you can get a feel for how it might look when hung with a few other things at Dan & Ali’s place:

It’s kinda plain-jane on its own, but it’s a nice little frame for a grouping since it plays so well with other busier things.

Total spent: $0. But if you count the original cost of the frame, the price of a Le Pen marker, and a scrap of fabric/cloth napkin (if you don’t accidentally steal one like my frazzled-mom self) this project might be around twelve bucks or so. And when it came to time spent, maybe it took me half an hour from start to finish? Unless my brother Dan is reading this, in which case it was $100 and took me five grueling days to complete.

Speaking of the one-year-anniversary lovebirds, Dan and Ali seemed to be genuinely charmed by it, so… score. I think they especially loved that it was a stolen napkin from their venue (which was hilarious/meaningful), so perhaps using something special like a swatch from a wedding table runner (or even a non-fabric item like a paper menu or seating card?) could help you create something sort of handmade and personal to commemorate someone’s big day in a new way?

So there’s the story of a napkin that I accidentally stole, kept around for a full year, and then hunted down in our crazy playroom full o’ junk. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has inadvertently taken something that wasn’t theirs. And that I’m not the only one to have a giant mountain of odds & ends that desperately need to be sorted/garage saled/repurposed/donated. Oh well, at least I was actually able to locate the napkin without calling in a search crew. That means the playroom can’t be too bad, right? Right?

Wrong. It’s bad.

What have you sketched/framed lately? Any other accidental kleptomaniac stories? Feel free to make me feel less alone in my little napkin-caper incident.

Psst- After many requests we’re spilling the beans about our approach to feeding Clara over on BabyCenter. With our doc’s blessing, we tried a method called Baby Led Weaning which meant no purees and no babyfood (instead she got the same healthy foods that we were eating, tweaked so she could safely eat them right along with us). More on the whole shebang here.


  1. says

    I live in Orlando, and am buying a house so I’ve been doing a lot of used furniture shopping.
    I came across a bunch of vintage post cards from my home town, near Hamilton Township NJ.
    Some have once been mailed, and one is even dated 1911.. Can’t wait to frame those & hang them in the new house :)

    • Nicholin says

      That sounds like a wonderful, and interesting art project! Good luck, and I would love to see the finished project.

  2. Amy E. says

    the baby center link is non-existent. i’m very interested to read your experience with BLW cuz that’s what we’re just starting!

    cool idea with the napkin! needlework is definitely a cherished keepsake in our house!

  3. says

    Nice gift! Personalizing is always a nice touch. As far as accidentally stealing things goes… I’ve gotten home more than once with something in my coat pocket I forgot to put back! It’s fine as long as it’s not on purpose, right?

  4. Natalie Muurisepp says

    I had two junior brides mades and a flower girl and ring girl at my wedding. This was to include my 2 nieces and my husbands. My nieces had a house fire shortly after our wedding and lost the dresses from our wedding and many other mementos. I worked with my husband’s growing nieces to put together a shadow box for each of my nieces. My oldest nieces had a background made from fabric of the dress that had been cropped by my husbands oldest niece to make it tee length for another wedding. My youngest niece had one shoe and one glove from the pair that my husbands youngest niece wore. Each had a picture with me and them on the special day. They love them!

  5. Yadira says

    HI YHL,

    I think you forgot to include the link to baby center or is not working.

    Have a great day!!!

    PS. I love your blog.

  6. says

    That is a cute little project. When my son was younger, we placed his infant car seat in the large part of shopping carts. Well, at one Target trip we piled stuff around him and put everything on the belt to pay. When we put him in the car, I saw we had accidentally stolen one of their dollar items. Oops. You’re not the only one.

  7. says

    I once accidentally stole a self-inking stamp that said “PAID” on it from this cute stamp shop in Bloomsbury (I’d already put my little paper bag of stuff in my handbag, then picked it up in a little paper bag after paying). I held on to it for six months until I next had a conference in the area and took it back in, like “hi, I accidentally took this home with me six months ago”…. they were a bit “um… ok…” it was really awkward. I should have just kept it or mailed it back!

    This art is super sweet. I love those fake needle points that people do on the wall, but don’t have the patience for it myself. I did frame a fabric tote bag that came free from my favourite literary festival. Those RIBBA frames you have over the sofa are the perfect size.

  8. Allison says

    Nice gift! My klepto story makes me feel worse. I was at target with husband, two-year-old, and one-month-old (or maybe he was even younger). My husband had been off getting other things while I was in the diaper aisle and I put two big boxes of diapers on the shelf under the cart. When we were in line, I went to the bathroom and he paid. But with all the other stuff in the cart, and the two kids (one rowdy, one screaming), he didn’t notice the diapers under neath. We got out to the car and were unloading the stuff and he said, “where’d those diapers come from? I didn’t pay for those.” We debated going back in to pay, but the baby was still very upset (had to get home and nurse) and it was five in the evening–the Target was crazy with afterwork shoppers. I said I’ll go back tomorrow and tell them what happened. But I never did…. it makes me feel pretty guilty to this day (baby’s now about 16 months… incidentally his birthday is just the day after Clara’s)

  9. says

    I too am the kind of person who would call the venue to apologize. I’m also the kind of person who apologizes profusely when I arrive at an appointment 5 minutes late, even if it’s at a doctor’s office where I usually wait for 30 minutes anyway. I’m just laden with guilt, I guess. Actually, I have a memory of walking off (not so accidentally) with a family friend’s calculator in the early ’80s, after a visit at their house. I was around 5 or 6 I think, and was apparently smitten with said calculator. No idea why. Since I haven’t seen them in years and years, I haven’t bothered to contact them to apologize. Because that would just be weird.

  10. Meghan, UK says

    The framing makes such a gorgeous difference – I love it. Needlepoint of that sort doesn’t take long though – go for it! It’s far easier than most sewing!

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